Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City: Saint Joseph the Worker Parish

01 1959 Saint Joseph the Worker Parish
1959 Saint Joseph the Worker Parish

At the Balintawak Cloverleaf Exchange, the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish stands at the crossroads of Metro Manila’s Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA for short), with the North Luzon Expressway to the north, and the roads of Apolonio Samson Street and Andres Bonifacio Avenue to the south. The Saint Joseph the Worker Parish holds jurisdiction over Quezon City’s Barangays Unang Sigaw, Balingasa and Apolonio Samson of the historical Balintawak district, and is part of the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Cubao, Vicariate of San Pedro Bautista.

The Saint Joseph the Worker Parish started as a small chapel in the 1940s, served by Augustinian Recollect priests of the now-San Roque Cathedral-Parish, about 4 kilometers away in Caloocan City. By 1947, management of the chapel was transferred to the priests of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), when they founded the now-Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Grace Parish in 1946; which is less than 2 kilometers away in Caloocan City. Years later, the administration of the sacraments was held by Franciscan priests from the Santuario de San Pedro Bautista, around 4 kilometers away in the San Francisco Del Monte district of Quezon City.

1968 Balintawak Interchange
1968 Balintawak Interchange

Through the requests of the local parishioners of the District of Balintawak, Cardinal Rufino Jiao Santos (1908-1973) issued the decree that would create the San Jose de Balintawak Parish, in 1959. The new parish was constructed beside an Aglipayan chapel (Philippine Independent Church), and was located several meters behind the 1911 monument to the Katipunan Revolution against Spain (1896-1898), entitled “Monumento sa mga Bayani ng 1896” (Monument to the Heroes of 1896) by Ramon Martinez. But with the 1968 construction of the EDSA-Balintawak Cloverleaf Interchange had the monument moved to the University of the Philippines 9 kilometers away, and the parish was moved on the slope along the southwestern corner of the interchange.

With the move to the new location, the parish was renamed as the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish and was constructed in a style that combined modern Brutalist and Baroque styles. This mixed-mashed architectural style would last around 46 years, until Father Emmanuel “Pong” E. del Rosario took over as the parish priest in 2015.

Father Pong was no stranger to the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish community, as he had donated three paintings to the church nearly a decade earlier. Father Pong is noted for his knowledge and skill in the medieval style of iconographic painting, which is be exemplified by the Ethiopian Gnostic and Greek Orthodox imagery. Father Pong created three trapezoid-shaped painting of the life of Saint Joseph, featuring “The Angel Gabriel visits St. Joseph” (Matthew 1:18-25), “The Birth of Christ” (Luke 2:1-7), and “The Death of St. Joseph.”

Through the efforts of Fr. Pong and the parishioners, the church underwent a renovation to expand the church for its growing population of parishioners. By 2017, the new façade of the church featured a Neoclassic style. However, the renovation of the church was long brewing in the parish since 2013, and before the new façade was unveiled, in late 2015 they community celebrated the “Hardin ni Maria” (Garden of Mary) and the new parish office and multi-purpose hall named the “Reverend Father Paulino G. Balagtas Dambana ng Paglilingkod” (Altar of Service). The office was named after Reverend Father Paulino G. Balagtas (born 1950) Superintendent of Catholic Schools, who had served at the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish from 1986 to 2002.

Despite its simple exterior, the Saint Joseph the Worker Parish features traditional Baroque decorations, which are typical of Philippine Churches. These are most evident with the church’s doorway and retablo (altarpiece), which features the icons of Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus, the Crucified Christ, and a silver tabernacle. These elaborate woodcarvings were once made by the santeros in Manila, but now these pieces are most likely carved in the towns of Gagua in Pampanga, or Paete in Laguna.

Another example of Filipino woodcarving can be seen in the 14 Stations of the Cross, which are located on the walls around the church. The 14 Stations depict the passion and death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24: 11-61, Mark 15: 1-47, Luke 23: 13-56, and John 19: 1-42); which is observed during the Lenten ritual of the Visita Iglesia, where the faithful visit seven churches and recite the prayers to two Staions of the Cross in each church.

The selection of Saint Joseph as the parish’s patron saint was because the area was still much an agricultural sector of then-Caloocan City. In fact, the Arce Dairy plant and offices still stands around a kilometer away, where Don Ramón Arce, Sr. and Doña Carmen C. Arce opened the Selecta Milk and Ice Cream Plant in 1952, specializing on carabao (Bubalus bubalis carabanesis) milk products from the many herds nearby. Not that the Balintawak district is a mix residential and business establishments, Saint Joseph is looked upon as the patron saint of the daily wage earner.

1959 Saint Joseph the Worker Parish

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